Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Village

Well, I'm sorry to say you have to read another blog from me (Bobbie). We got back from the village last Saturday but Jesse has been sick so it is now up to me to keep y'all up to date.

As most of you already know, our team here had been invited to come teach English in a village. We've been really trying to find opportunities to get into natural cultural situations, so when we found out we could live with a T family while we were there, we jumped at the chance.

Steven in a "natural cultural situation." Not loving it.

Our coworkers went the first two weeks (to see their pictures click on "Privyet" to the right) and then it was our turn. We arrived there on a Sunday evening and got settled in. It was a interesting set up and one that we had to get use to. Our "bedroom" was actually in the living room at the end. There were 3 other rooms in the house which were all attached to the living room and only one had a door (the room where they keep the baby sheep and cows so they won't freeze).

All the other rooms were open to each other so we had to get use to changing and even using the bathroom (aka a pee can) with other people in the house. It worked out pretty well as we figured out each other's schedules. Life in general is pretty flexible there. Well, I would have to say VERY flexible there. No set time to eat or go to sleep.

Our bedroom

The lady of the house would usually fix a pot of soup around 10:00am which was eaten by the family (and friends) as they came in and out. You never knew when people would show up or how many there would be but you had to have enough food to feed all of them. I had to learn this as I fixed several meals while I was there. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way, as a couple of times the poor lady had to whip up something really quick since I didn't fix enough. Now I know!

Another example of how laid back people are there was our schedule at the school where we were teaching. It was posted every day what classes we were to have but as the days went on we quickly saw that we had to be ready for anything since the classes that were supposed to come didn't and classes that were supposed to be in the afternoon came in the morning and vice versa. Some classes we would have only 3 children but the next day there would be 9 in the same class.

But, we rolled with the flow and took everything in stride. I mean, why stress out over something that you can't change, right? So, the next time you see us, we'll be even more laid back and flexible than before - whether this is good or bad, you be the judge!

So, we got settled in and started teaching our classes the next day. Actually, Jesse taught all the classes the first day as I went and stayed with the kids at daycare since it was their first time.

I quickly realized a few things: One, I need to start potty training Matthew (almost 2) as every kid his age there is already mostly potty trained. Second, Steven loves to run. They have a large play room they use as a gym. Steven had to be dragged out crying each time (they have a schedule and only go in there during certain times). Third, I need to teach them how to share. BIG PROBLEM. I'm open to suggestions if you have a way to teach children this. And lastly, I shouldn't be in the room watching them as they act so much worse when I'm around.

They fed the boys something like grits at snacktime; Matthew loved it!

By midday I left, realizing how much better they did if they didn't see me. So, I went to join Jesse in his classes and realized he needed some help with the younger kids. That's how I got to teach grades 1-7.
Once classes were over we would eat at the school then I would head back to the house and talk with the lady of the house (A) to practice my local language. She is the same age as me and has kids the same age as ours, so we had a lot in common. She also loved to watch Hell's Kitchen with me so we got along great. Jesse hung out with S and practiced his language as well.

We also helped around the house cleaning, cooking, milking the cows (I actually successfully milked a cow!), and hauling water. Oh, yeah, I almost forgot - they don't have running water, so getting water for all the sheep and cows and people was a big task every day.

We stayed busy and slept well. We learned a lot about the culture and are looking forward to going back. Please keep them in your thoughts as this winter has been the worst winter in a long, long time. Their animals are starving and they have no money to buy hay for them. One day they even went out and just brought back pine branches and dead leaves for the animals to have at least something - they attacked it like it was alfalfa or something. This is the case not only for them but for most of Siberia. We're getting tired of all the cold and snow too, but at least our livelihoods aren't dependent on seeing some greenery soon.

Bottle-feeding a premature calf in what turned out to be a doomed effort - it died 3 days after being born

And that's about it. We'll be taking turns going out to the village over the next few months, so we'd appreciate your thoughts. Also, Jesse has been sick since we got back, so he's anxious to start feeling better and get in the office to start going though all his new language data. Thanks!

We leave you with this picture of the nicest outhouse we found in town. Chills my backside just remembering it (yes, that's snow)!

Edit: one last picture of Steven and one of their puppies, just for the grandparents.

Monday, March 8, 2010


Moscow got a bit of snow last week

Yep, back in Moscow. Or M-va, as we gangstas like to refer to it. And you know me - nothing says "gangsta" quite like a freckled white guy wearing jeans. It's just how I roll.

So, what have I been doing? Language, of course! In the course of training to help out with the culture and language program, I was asked to come back to Moscow to help out with a checkup for some of the students here. That meant a lot of this:

Followed by the other consultant and I listening to what was recorded, and talking with some native Russian speakers about the language sample we got. It's a lot of work, but hopefully it will help out those in the process of learning culture and language. We had a productive time here, I think, and I hope that we were able to give them some good direction and advice for their future study.

Anyway, it hasn't all been work here, and you wouldn't really enjoy the pictures of it even if it were. We did have some space in the schedule one day, and I went out to try to find some peanut butter and other things we can't get out in T-land. Amusingly, in the local mall, was this shop:
...claiming to sell salteñas, which if you'll recall from a few posts down is a famous Bolivian dish. I didn't buy any, though, as they were clearly something different.

I did manage to go to the absolutely atrocious Ashan store, which was packed with people at 2 on a Thursday afternoon. I can't imagine what it must be like on a weekend these days. To make matters worse, they didn't have any peanut butter.

One of the best things about the trip has been seeing all of our old friends here. This is our friend Nadira, making plov:

... and her sister Delia, serving it up. It was so good to see them again! (Not to mention to eat the tasty real Uzbek plov!)
I've also gotten to have some other foods that we can't get out East, including McDonald's and once, as seen below, even Papa Johns. These are our friends Gudrun and Ivor (she's had some neck problems lately and hence is wearing the brace).

Here's the whole gang, post-plov (except Shawna, who's taking the picture). It's a fun group to be with, and it's been an enjoyable visit.

But that doesn't mean I'm not anxious to get back to this:

Steven's been quite sick since I left, and Bobbie just let me know that now Matthew is coughing and hacking as well. Please lift them up in your thoughts - especially Bobbie who's very tired and needing some rest. Taking care of little ones is hard enough, but it's harder when they're sick and I'm not there to help out some.

I'll leave you with a video we took a few weeks back of our neighbor playing a common T game, if for no other reason than I have fast enough internet here to upload videos. When the T people slaughter a sheep, they save the knuckles, and over time get quite a collection of them. Then, you can play a series of games with them, one of which is similar to jacks: